Progress Report-Chapter 2


The Transformation of Federal Work

Years ago, Colonel Dunn would have drawn different lessons from a visit to one of America's best-run companies. He would have learned that hierarchical command-and-control structures work best, that an organization's leaders should make its decisions, and that lower-level workers should implement them, no questions asked.

No more. The same economic forces that have prompted businesses to focus more on their customers are also prompting companies and, yes, now governments to focus their work processes and structures around the concept of quality. What matters now are not inputs, but outputs. To get the best results, organizations are changing the way they organize work, relying more on flat structures, labor-management cooperation, and team approaches. As they shift authority to the front lines and empower employees, they give workers the tools they need and hold them accountable for their results.

Within these broad themes, NPR has unleashed a torrent of activity around the federal workforce. The reduction of 252,000 positions (since increased to 272,900) received the most attention upon its inclusion as a proposal in From Red Tape to Results . The controversy it engendered, however, overshadowed the important changes in work processes that NPR proposed. A year later, both the workforce reductions and the systems changes are well underway.

In this chapter, you will learn that:

The National Partnership Council has launched a major effort to spread the idea of labor-management cooperation throughout the executive branch. Within agencies, as well, labor and management are entering into more cooperative arrangements than ever before. Through the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and the President's performance agreements with agency heads, the government is holding employees at all levels accountable for results as never before.

The workforce changes are forcing senior executives to innovate on their own and work with lower-level employees more than ever. Inspectors general also are recognizing the trends and transforming their operations accordingly (while continuing to pursue their traditional job of finding waste, fraud, and abuse).

Even the Office of Personnel Management, once regarded as a bastion of old thinking, has played a leading role by scrapping the Federal Personnel Manual and the SF-171 standard job application form.

Not all federal employees have embraced the new approaches. Some, in fact, regard such changes as "fads," sure to die when interest wanes or a new Administration comes to town. The changes, however, are larger than any one Administration, broader than the interests of any one worker. Propelled by worldwide economic forces, they are here to stay.


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